Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What is the Purpose of News?

The Newshour had an interesting bit on news coverage of Iraq.

Apparently what precipitated the report was that the official US casualty numbers for the war passed the 4000 corpse milestone. The deatheaters on the left were all geared for using the milestone in a barrage of Bush-Whacking articles, but as leftist journalist sat down to spin the milestone, there was a realization that they had lost the context for their attacks. We crossed the milestone in a time when deaths were decreasing and Iraqis were starting to feel more secure.

People who already hate Bush with every fiber of their being could take glee on learning of the important death milestone. They were able to make little hate pictures and feel self righteousness. There were all sorts of bloggers out celebrating the achievement of an important death milestone.

But, as it stands, the deatheaters celebrating the milestone already hate Bush with every fiber of their being. Celebrating the milestone might re-inforce one's hatred of Bush, but won't move the all important polls.

Even worse. Instead of being able to use the milestone in Bush attacks, the media seems to have found itself drawn into a debate about why it dramatically decreased coverage of Iraq when the troop surge was showing signs of success.

The Newshour report included some interesting squirming by folks like Marjorie Miller. Ms. Miller is one of the propagandist for the "So Called Los Angeles Times." Ms Miller seems to still be stuck in the vortex of the heady "Patreaus-Betrayed-Us Days" when leftwing propagandist thought prefixing "Troop Surge" with the snarl word "so called" would be sufficient to make the surge fail. She was pretty pathetic.

Mark Jurkowitz spat out an absurdist spin saying that journalists writing reports is a cost center. Because it is a cost center, you only write when you have something partisan to say. His view is absurd because journalism is not simply a cost center. It really is an investment. The newspapers sunk their investment money in positioning people to get the sensational news. Gathering up human interest stories and everyday news on improvements in Iraq would actually increase profits from the investment.

The most interesting commentary came from Greg Mitchell who was livid about the drop in coverage. Mr. Mitchell feels that there are all sorts of things that the media should have reported during the coverage gap that happened between the Patreaus Report and the 4000 death milestone.

Unfortunately, no-one in the debate really came out and said directly what the real problem is. Our real problem is that the press (left and right) is pre-occupied with with the partisan effects of their reports and have stopped reporting the news.

This thing where our newsagencies seem more interested in the partisan effect of the news rather than on the quality of the reporting and open discourse seems to be making each stage of the war worse than it should be.

First off, if we had better discourse in 2003, before the invasion, we might have realized that invading Iraq was not the next best step in the struggle against radical Islam. We might have realized that we needed more investment of troops to secure the country after the invasion.

Of course, it is not simply the actions of the people in news. I think our whole intellectual establishment has fallen into a partisan mode. I agree with Horowitz aht many of or problems are the result of lefist orthodoxy taking root in the schools. But the hetrodoxy that Horowitz advocates seems to be failing as well.

The rightwing media failed to report on the failings of the Iraq invasion until we were on the brink of catastrophic failure. The leftwing media failed to report on any successes for fear it might harm the partisan gains of the 2006 election.

The really sad result of the partisan reporting is that our 2008 election seems will produce an election with candidates with entrenched positions on Iraq, when what we really need is a president who will look at the situation as it exists in 2009 and who will concentrate on finding ways to extract ourselves from past mistakes with a minimal amount of damage to the Iraqis.

1 comment:

Scott Hinrichs said...

News agencies also base reporting on sensationalism because it really sells. They also know that bad news usually sells better than good news (unless it's bizarrely out of the ordinary). This penchant can overcome partisan tilt. News agencies will turn and devour one of their ideological friends if the story is good enough.